Summer and early fall are filled with weekends of community fairs and festivals. Many of these events provide an opportunity to highlight music, nature, and achievements of both youth and adults. While these things are great – it is the food that really gets everyone so excited! Think “Rib Fest”, “Chili Cook-off”, funnel cakes, milk shakes, or “German Fest.” While food safety isn’t the most exciting thing, it is something to keep in mind when you are heading off to eat at your favorite fair or festival. Here are a few things to check or remember to avoid possible food borne illness:
- Does the food vendor have a permit or license in plain sight? While regulations vary from state to state, most require a food license for festivals. This shows you that the vendor was inspected by the local Health Department and passed that inspection.
- Are the vendor’s food prep areas for meat/poultry and fresh produce in different areas to prevent cross contamination? Are these prep areas neat cleaned and sanitized after each use?
- Does the vendor use gloves, tongs, and frequently wash their hands? Is a different person handling the money and prepping the food?
- Can you see refrigerators and freezers for cold items, and clean fryers, microwaves or cookers for hot items?
Tips for yourself: if you take your own foods – use ice to keep them properly chilled, frequently wash your hands (especially after rides, petting animals or taking barn tours, and before and after eating or bathroom trips), and use a hand sanitizer if sinks and water aren’t available. Should you become sick after eating – report your illness to the local Health Department and any food vendors you visited. They will check to see if there are other illnesses and perform an investigation.
By being observant before you purchase festival food, you can enjoy your treat and not pay for it later!
Stop Food Borne Illness – http://www.stopfoodborneillness.org/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – http://www.cdc.gov/features/fairsandfood/
Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ross County.
Reviewer: Daniel Remley, Assistant Professor, Field Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness.